I was cleaning out a filing cabinet in the hope of getting it to actually close again, and I came across a folder with over 1000 rejection letters. I could tell from the dates which project I was working on at the time. Email wasn’t prominent yet. These were from the day when you actually constructed a personable letter, sent it snail mail, and received a poorly printed form letter in return.
Why had I kept them? Were they badges of my failure? No, not at all. I’d heard once that it took 100 no’s to get a yes. I kept them so I could count them to see how much closer I was getting to my goal. Each rejection was one step closer to yes.
But keeping a sun-will-come-out-tomorrow attitude isn’t easy. Sometimes each rejection feels like a stab at the heart. I put so much energy into my writing, there’s so much ME there, it’s hard not to take rejection personally.
And I had so much hope when I mailed the thing out.
When I first started in this business, I would write the best query letter I could and mail-merge it to fifty agents at a time. Mail-merge simply took the body of the letter, addressed it from my database, and changed the salutation from Dear Sir to Dear So-and-So. That is not the best practice, not only because if two of those agents compared notes over lunch they would see I sent them both the same letter (like that would happen) but because query letters should evolve. People may be rejecting merely my query, not my novel. Or so I told myself. So I started sending out queries five at a time. As the rejections came in, I fine-tuned my letter and sent it back out.
For me, that seemed the only way to deal with it. Hope is but a query letter away. As one came back, I would content myself with the knowledge that four others were out there. I’d stick the reject in my folder to be counted later.
Today, of course, queries and rejects are all done electronically. I send out my email and when it comes back I log the reject on Excel. I think sending a query via email makes it even easier to reject. Having a busy day? Just go down the list and delete, delete, delete. I’m grateful to the agents and publishers who take the time to respond. It’s those outstanding queries that can drive you crazy.
I still count my rejections. My goal is to receive a certain amount of rejects a year. That shifts my focus to submitting my work rather than getting it published. I commit to submitting 101 times. It takes 100 no’s. But it isn’t easy.
If you can’t stand to see another NO, there are services out there that will submit and collect your rejections for you. Writers Relief is a good place to start, but there are others.
Rejection is NOT failure. Giving up on your dream is failure. And really, you don’t want all those people who said no anyway. You want someone who is as passionate and excited about your book as you are.
Don’t give up.